Preserving Brandied Peaches – What to do when a batch goes wrong

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That was how these went:

Preserving Brandied Peaches   What to do when a batch goes wrong Preserving Recipes Peach Brandy

Sometimes preserving just won’t do what you want it to.  And, for me, that generally happens with peaches.

Yep, peaches.

They seem innocent enough.  They practically taunt you with their cuteness and call to you with their sweet demeanor.  And some of them are just that sweet – but others are demons in disguise.  And that’s the problem with peaches – you can’t tell the nice ones from the troublemakers.

And of course, there is the matter of my own daftness (that’s also a word today).  After all, I peeled my first 85 pints with a knife.  I had no idea that you could ‘simply’ boil them for a few seconds and then they’d shed their coats like a butterfly sheds it’s cocoon and instantly becomes an object of beauty.

Now I know there are some people reading this and yelling, ‘LIAR!’  And they’re right.  Sometimes a peach just won’t peel.  That was my humbling lesson this year.  Albeit, I did make some mistakes when I tried to peel them:

  • The water wasn’t quite hot enough
  • I put too many in at once (lowering the water temperature further)
  • The peaches were tight and thin-skinned
  • The peaches weren’t super-ripe.
  • I didn’t buy freestones

So I basically cooked the first quarter-inch, was left with most of the skin and swore a little.  And not the really bad words, but enough that the peaches knew I meant business.  I quickly came to terms with the importance of preserving being fun and committed to finding the silver lining (after all, this was nowhere near the crime scene that was nearly created when we peeled 6.5 pounds of garlic).

Two weeks later I read the following tweet from one of my Favourite Chef’s, Kyle Demming (of the soon-to-open Sausage Partners):

Preserves are about making your winter tolerable not your summer miserable, so no, I don’t peel my peaches…
Our friend Laura of Cubit’s Organics experienced similar pain when she attacked an entire bushel of these things.  Luckily she made a lovely peach lemonade alternative to ease the pain.
But the question remains – what to do when a batch just isn’t working?  Generically my advice is simple – stay calm, adapt your plan and carry on.  I wanted to make lovely perfect peach halves with a dimple where the pit was once delicately nestled.  Instead I ended up with rustic peach chunks complimented with a rough divot that looked like something a golf club would leave behind on freshly laid sod.  The pit was roughly cut out with entire pieces of peach flesh clinging to them (we used that for a recipe that will follow tomorrow) and canned the chunks with most of the skin on.  I tell myself this will add texture or easily be eaten around when it comes time to pop the jars of ‘Smashed Peaches”:
Preserving Brandied Peaches   What to do when a batch goes wrong Preserving Recipes Peach Brandy
  1. 6 pounds of peaches – this will make 4-5 pints.
  2. We can them in a light syrup (20% sugar mixture by weight).  If using volume, dissolve 3 cups of water with 2/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons of sugar.
  3. Optional: 1 tablespoon of brandy per jar.
  1. Obliterate your peaches using any means necessary.  Tear them, rip them, chunk them, cut them – bite in to them if you have to (errr…maybe not the last one).  Have some fun and forget about being perfect like Martha – pretend, instead, that you’re the Rambo of the kitchen.  Don’t take any lip from them peaches.
  2. If you’re not fast, they will brown.  Add some lemon juice and toss as you go to help control the browning.
  3. Bring simple syrup to a gentle boil over medium-high heat.
  4. Gently boil fruit slices for 3-4 minutes.
  5. Add peaches into hot, sterile cans.
  6. Optional: pour a tablespoon of brandy into the jar.
  7. Pour hot syrup into jar (use care).  Gently jiggle to remove air bubbles and repeat until there is a half inch of headspace remaining.
  8. Gently jiggle the jar (wearing oven mitts) to free any bubbles to the surface – leave a half inch of headspace.
  9. Process for 20 minutes in a hot water bath.

If you struggle with having fruit and vegetables float when canning, check out our article on “seat belting” which can be used with peaches to keep them buckled in!

We`ve shared a lot about eaches in the past, here`s a few other and ideas:


  1. LOL…did you see the post that I did yesterday about my canned peaches? Or maybe you should wait a few days before reading it.. ;-)

    The trick is patience and letting the peaches sit for a few days on the counter. Mine were perfectly ripe and the skins literally fell off the peaches. We did 17 jars in one hour!

    Sorry :-(

    • Oh Dallas,

      I like to laugh at myself. I knew I should have waited but I was like “must…do…now…” A peach zombie. :) I’ll go check that out – excited to see it :)

  2. Joanne K-J says:

    Growing up my Nana made the best “stewed peaches.” She didn’t can/preserve and she didn’t peel – ever. A good scrub to remove the fuzz, a nice light syrup and we ate them faster then she could get them off the stove. And the skin gave the syrup the prettiest pink-ish color. Your blog entry and my memory of Nana’s peaches will ensure I not make the same mistake if I ever find myself with a winfall of organic peaches (I should only be so lucky).

  3. *dies laughing*

    I am so sorry for laughing this hard – and please – I am NOT laughing at your pain, truly.

    It’s just that this is one of the funniest entries I have read here ever – I could actually SEE you eying those peaches and planning mayhem.

    One thing I think I can predict with some accuracy is that your peaches will most certainly taste wonderful to you no matter what they look like coming out of the jar.

    You may have started a trend (or created a monster) because I am looking out my window at a tree full of soon to be ripe pears and have the urge to can the lot of them just as you have described in this entry.

    A question?

    What liquor would you use if you were doing up pears?

    I would love to make some smashed pears in a spiked syrup this year…

    Anyway, thank you for the smile – promise me that you will wear at least one smug smile while enjoying the fruits of your labor over vanilla bean ice cream this winter? (the rest of us will surely envy you then)


    • M.L.

      Thanks for laughing – and I mean that. I really did have fun with them – it’s a simple rule for me – preserving must be fun. I’ve come close to melting down before but just won’t let myself get there.

      As for pears? Whisky. I also leave the peels on – here’s a post on them :) :

      I’m obsessed with the idea of blitzing these peaches into salad dressing in the middle of winter and cooking rice in the syrup. I’ll share details when we do but I can’t wait to taste these combinations in the middle of February. :)


  4. awe! That’s so not fun. I also didn’t realize you could blanch peaches and called my mom cursing…after a good laugh (on her part, so not mine) I started scoring and blanching. Honestly I think your peaches look GREAT! In like, February when the world is gray, you’ll be jazzed you have them. My peach pie filling is slowly turning brown even though I treated the peaches ;) This morning I picked up two random pounds of strawberries at the grocery, they were they very last ones and BEAUTIFUL. I’m hunting around your site now for ideas on what to do with them :)

  5. .2011 ..This week we took a trip to a local farm to fulfill one of our activities pick peaches. Although with the midwest heat and humidity weve been graced with I opted to alter the summer goal and buy pre-picked peaches. Call me a wimp but sweating my guts out while chasing three kids through an orchard carrying whats starting to feel like a watermelon AND picking peaches didnt sound too fun to me.

  6. My mom and I did 2 bushels of not ripe enough peaches, we wanted them to be firmer coming out of the can and in-turn blanching to get the peels off was just not going to happen. So 2 bushels of peaches peeled by hand with knives over two days was the result; the good thing is that a lot of conversation and laughter came from it! One thing we did do so that we could keep up peeling while canning was we took a big pot and filled it with water and added some Fruit-Fresh (we used 1-tsp for each 1-cup of water), all the fruit we peeled would just go in that pot while waiting to go in a can. We raw packed them and just used a slotted spoon to strain them from their holding pot to the can and then covered in a light syrup. Sometimes they’d spend an hour or two during the process in the pot and we had no issues with browning at all.

  7. Peaches were my nemesis this year too. I got 20 lbs, let them ripen a few days and headed out to my parents’ place for the company, the help, and my mom’s canning supplies (we just moved into a home this summer so I have yet to stockpile everything I would need here). We tested one peach to see if it would peel and it worked beautifully, I think that was the only one that peeled properly, the only perfect peach. The rest of them were peeled with a peeler and looked very bruised even though they were very firm. We decided to press on and can them anyway. So there we were, me eight months pregnant, canning ugly peaches on what turned out to be the hottest day in the past 16 years for our area. Not what I had planned when I decided to can peaches that day. As it turned out the peaches looked great after the whole process was over, you can hardly tell they were discolored and I’m glad we decided to just make it work and enjoy it anyway.

  8. “I had no idea that you could ‘simply’ boil them for a few seconds and then they’d shed their coats like a butterfly sheds it’s cocoon and instantly becomes an object of beauty.”

    My first thought when I read that part:
    Wait, I know something in this area – and have for many years – that you went a long time not knowing??
    I’m surprised that I didn’t comment on your post from last September. I may have mocked you.

    An additional tip that you might or might not know: Cut an “x” in them before popping them in water. Works for tomatoes too. My mom taught me these tricks when I was growing up.

  9. I’m certainly no expert, but I was told that some non-free stone peaches just won’t give up their skins, even when ripe. At the Brickworks market, Baby golds were recommended as the best peaches for canning, since they hold their shape. A friend who preserves confirmed that free-stones aren’t the best for canning.) After no luck with blanching the ripe baby gold peaches, I ended up peeling them with a vegetable peeler and cutting the flesh off the pit, resulting in canned peach chunks instead of slices. But they do look pretty.

    • Trisha,

      If it’s any comfort – we bought the exact same peaches from the same place (I’m guessing Bizjak farms since they were only peach vendor there). :) And we have chunks with skin on. :) I’m actually excited to see how it goes with the skin – and may change to that from now on. :)

  10. I feel your pain….peaches have been my nemisis this season as well. While my strawberries, blueberries and blackberries have set up perfectly, even the dragonfruit/blackberry I tried out set perfectly. But my peach jams….oh my peach jams. Peach Amaretto is a solid syrupy mess. Pirate Peach is a sloshy drunken goo. I blame the peaches. The strawberries took their dose of vodka and set, so did the blueberries. And I so wanted a Pirate Peach jam for the jam swap…..I spent an hour making cutesy labels and lining up the printer.

    I am sad to say they blanched perfectly though and the pits came out cleanly. However an immersion blender would have made my life smoother as some of the chunks didn’t cook down well and then floated….

    • I think you may have had so little success with your peach jam because peaches have one of the lowest pectin contents of any fruit. Next time you pay want to go with double the added pectin! ;)

  11. You seem to be a pretty excellent authority on canning. It just so happens I just made Bourbon Peaches and I have a question.

    I’ve never had a problem with air bubbles before.

    I poured my hot poached peaches into my hot sterilized jars along with some of the syrup and topped with bourbon – just less than a 1/4 cup per jar (mmm). I used a plastic knife to dislodge air bubbles. When I was satisfied I gave the jars a firm tap to settle the peaches, put on the lids and rings and dropped them into my hot water bath.

    I boiled them for a good 20 minutes, removed them and let them cool. Heard them pop! and I’ve got great seals. This morning as I was storing them I jostled the peaches around and realized they were releasing tiny air bubbles up to the head of the jar.

    Wtf. Where did these bubbles come from? Are they a result of the boiling alcohol? Do you have any suggestions? Do I need to reheat my peaches and reprocess?


    • I just wanted to update on my bubble issues. I spoke with someone and she recommended that I put the peaches in question into the fridge to determine if the bubbles were gaseous alcohol or occurring from a process of fermentation. If the bubbles were just gaseous alcohol they would return to their liquid state in the fridge, if not I did not create an anaerobic environment in my jar.

      The bubbles vanished without a trace after a few hours of refrigeration.

      • Interesting Jenn, I haven’t heard of this as a technique ar all so have no insight/ expertise. Certainly some food for thought (and on the research list :)).


  12. Ummm *shy* just a question?

    I always do up cranberries with vodka (Uh – and lots of it…learned this from an Auntie long ago – we add the vodka at the end of the cooking and they stay very lovely for seemingly ever. So lovely that my daughter once took a jar with her to Home Depot to ask them to match the color for her room)

    So the question is…

    Does anyone else do this and does the vodka have an effect on the pectin in the berries? (I add orange peel and juice to these – it is just modified from the recipe from the back of a bag of cranberries we came up with years ago)

    The consistency is similar to a thick and perfectly set jam but we have never used a commercial pectin.

    The reason I am asking is that I wanted to try adding a marmalade mix (a combo of mixed peel suggested by a friend) and was wondering if it is actually the vodka that keeps this ‘sauce’ from turning into a jello mold in the jar…

    Just curious.


  13. Hey Joel – I was just doing some more internet research on peach varieties for canning since I’m planning for annual peach canning project this weekend, and came across my comments in this old post (though I’d swear it was last summer not 2011 – how time flies!). Any updates or recommendations based on your peach perserving since then? (p.s. love the revamped site)


  1. [...] poor peach guys crazy with distracting chit chat and placed an order for a bushel of freestones (lessons from Well Preserved on this one) to be picked up the following week. I think half of twitter was at the market that [...]

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